Anime Central was held May 12th-14th in the Sheradon Arlington Heights outside of Chicago Illinois. This was the first time I came to this con, having for the first time the oppertunity to come. I must say I'm glad I came. This con was a new experience for me, since it was a mid-west con. Aside from Anime Expo 98 and 99, all the cons I attended were east coast cons, to which many of the same people go to. As much as I enjoy seeing those familiar faces, it was nice to be at a convention where there were a lot of new faces.
Of course, there were some familiar faces, too. Those of ORGY who made it were a very welcome sight. Next to them, there were also some roommates and friends-of-friends I had seen at other cons before. It was a pleasure getting to know them better. And then just as I was one to make it to both mid-west and east coast cons, there were a few other people I had seen around, such as dealers and industry people who come to every convention.
Anime Central was sort of a gift to myself. I had finished my last exams at Johns Hopkins the monday before the con, and was able to make my costume in the two days between the last final and my departure via Greyhound. Yes, I went to Chicago by Greyhound. Because of all the delays and traffic problems with O'Hare, I was one of the few people who made it to the con on schedule. However, I won't be taking the bus to any more cons any time soon. The ride is quite long, and though this trip was an exception, usally wouldn't even save that much money over flying.
I arrived at the con hotel at 7pm, just as I had expected. There were already obvious con attendees around, and I even saw a few of the guests. I didn't see the great Kevin Lillard, though, so the con just simply hadn't started yet. After some confusion, I finally found my firends and went up to our room. Nothing was really going on, so we were all rather bored (and some of us were very, very tired). So the first chance I got I took a shower, since I'd been traveling or the last 22 hours. The shower was nice, especially compared to what I was used to at home. The shower (at least in our room on the third floor) was more like a sandblast than anything else. It had a lot of pressre behind it and was strong enough to make the "massage" setting on the shower head actually work. Of course, the toilet had the same kind of pressure behind it. When it got flushed, you needed to stand back for fear of getting sucked in. I still believe that it doubled as a sub-dimentional transporter to a room on the eighth floor.
After that I decided to wander the hotel a bit. The hotel layout was odd and confusing, but still very practical. It took me about a day to figure out where everything really was in relation. The biggest problem with the layout was that there were two different dealer's room, and they weren't even close together. But It dod work out fine and I think both rooms got a good deal of business. I think the lower level dealer's room was better though. In any case, I went around both and visited some of the dealer's I knew, just to say hi and kill time. After that I went back to the room and soon more people arrived. They came by car from Ohio, so they had a LOT of stuff with them. We all went down and unloaded. But by the time half the stuff was unloaded, we got hungry and decided to find food. We were about to walk about half a mile over the the local fast food restaurants, but decided to stay and order pizza instead. Well, we kinda got split up for a while and it was going to take a while to order pizza. So in the mean time some of us went down and found Steve Bennet. We talked with him for a while, and he had some interesting stories to tell us. Apparently, he had heard about the Sunday events at Animazement that same day while in Japan! He said that just from the description of what had happened, he knew it was us. (The coat gave it away for him...) Now, if you don't know what happened at Animazement on Sunday, you don't need to know. If you do, I'll get back to that below. We eventually ordered our pizza and went to sleep around 4am.
The next morning I woke up early and went down to get in line for registration. It was 45 dollars, but it was certainly worth it. The entire con was run very well, with a lot of extras including a full color booklet. There were maybe five or six costumers around that time in the morning. Well, some of my friends and I decided to get into costume then, too. After some trading of costumes and rearranging, we all were ready and went downstairs. Each one of us had swords. We wandered around and had quite a few pictures taken. All went well as we wandered through the convention until one of the staff guys told us ABSOLUTLY no real steel was allowed in the convention area. "Why is that?" I asked and the responce was "Because of insurance and liability reasons." Well, I certainly didn't like that. The Shinsen Gumi carried swords around, and if I couldn't have my sword -- which was peace-bonded and couldn't be unseathed if I tried -- the costume would be missing an important part. But if that's what the rules were, that's what they were. Of course, they never said anything about the sheaths. So we all just left the blades upstairs (god knows what the maid though when she found them...) and just kept them with us, for appearances. Well, lated I found another cosplayer who was carrying around a sword. I warned him that the staff was cracking down on steel. Well, it turnes out he WAS staff, and he WAS allowed to carry around a sword. That really got to me. Please, no double standards. I can understand that the convention can't have real blades around. But if that's true, it has to be a rule for everybody. NO EXCEPTIONS! At least I got to take it to the masquerade, though, so that was all good.
After a while on Friday I changed from Saito Hajime to Ken from Street Fighter, a more comfortable costume because it was getting a bit warm in the hotel with no A/C. For the rest of the evening I did usual con stuff, going to panels,getting autographs, and the like. Friday was certainly the better day to get autographs, since the lines were MUCH shorter. I even managed to talk Chiho Saito into doing a sketch for a friend of mine who is obsessed -- I mean likes Shoujo Kakume Utena very much who didn't make it to the con. I liked the way the autographs were done, each attendee getting a punch card to make sure everybody got one autograph. It's a system I'd recomend other cons use.
Friday night was then the filming of the "Anime Fanboy Project." I was the first one to dissapear into the mysterious "viewing rooms." If you want to know more, you'll need to go to cons and find a copy of the footage.
Saturday morning was more of the normal con things, dealers room, panels, things like that. But by noon my friend and I were on a quest to get a picture of every costumer we could find. Friday morning, this seemed like no daunting task. ACen seemed to be the opposite of AWA, where to bled in you wore a costume. Friday morning and early afternoon, the costumers REALLY stuck out. But around 4 pm on Friday the costumers really exploded. So Saturday around noon I was really busy taking pics. I have to say I was impressed by a lot of the costumes. Saturday afternoon I spent a lot of time walking around in costume and talking to people. The rest of it was spent waiting to sign up for the masquerarade. I wasn't even really sure I wanted to be in the masquerade until that afternoon, even though I had already worked out a skit and everything. But I went ahead and signed up.
The pre-masquerade set up went well, aside from the fact that at that point somebody managed to STEAL Steve Bennet's camera. Thieving jerk, you need to be punished. Anyways, the MC and coordinator did a really good job. I have to echo a statment he made. There was not a single costume there that was just so-so. You know what I'm talking about, a costume that's a nice attempt but is obviously a last minute attempt or something somebody threw together without much effort. There was not a single costume in the masquerade like that. Every costume I saw there was nice. Some better than others, and some I felt needed some more work, but they were ALL very nice. The cosplay was run very smoothly, with the help of the gong. Yes, this cosplay was run like the gong show. (If you don't know what this means, if the judges think you need to finish up and get of stage, they gong you.) The gong was only used twice, once on the MC (in jest) and once on "Bubba" Lime. The final result was the people KNEW they could get pushed off stage at any time, and this kept all skits from being too long or too tedious; as a whole the masquerade went off very well. My biggest problem was that I was entry 78 out of 80, and missed almost the whole thing. ANYBODY who has a video copy of the cosplay, PLEASE email me so we can arrange something.
As for my skit, it went off pretty well, considering that the crowd started chanting "DANCE! DANCE! DANCE!" as soon as I said that I would do anything for payments. The problem was that I was trying to concentrate on my skit, and I couldn't understand what they were chanting. Once I handed the mic back to the MC, though, he asked me if I was going to dance, and then I got it. So I did a short little jig on stange and got off. Thanks to all the people who threw money on the stage! I love you guys! I didn't win anything, so I was a little bit disapointed, but the reason I joined the masquerade was to get up on stage and have fun, not win prizes. It was a great feeling, and and certainly worth it.
After the prizes, there was a big reception outside in the tent pavillion. I thought this was a great idea. It gave everybody a chance to take pictures with the cosplaters, as well as talk with them and ask questions. This was as much fun as the masquerade itself, since everybody got to mingle and chat. It meant more pictures taken of me, along with other people as well. The conga line was fun, short as it was, ans some of the other antics that were pulled. (But I'll get to that below. It's probably what you're most interested in hearing about from that day...)
After that I changed to normal clothes and hung around in my friends room for a while while we played with the steady-cam and nightvision features. Oh, we also flushed the toilet about 9 times. YOU DIED!
I had promised to meet some people at the dance, but when I went down to find them, I couldn't, so I left as well. Why? The dance pretty much sucked. That was probably the worst part of the con. So I just wandered around, talking to people and taking a rest here and there. I hit the winding down kareoke (but didn't sing anything myself). After wandering around a bit more, I just hung out with my friends for the rest of the night. I was planing on staying up all night, since my bus left Sunday afternoon, and I would have all the time to sleep that I wanted to. Well, as people drifted off to lalaland, the rest of us started hearing Japanese folk music coming from the tent outsite. So we went to see what it was. It wasn't anything big, just some other people staying up all night talking and listening to music. So we left and wandered around the hotel some more. A group of people had taken over the kareoke room, since all the equipment was there and still running. But we left that and continued wandering. We found some video rooms, one of which was showing hentai stuff. We proped the door open to see what was going on, and all of a sudden there were more people peering in than I knew were awake at that time. But then the staff guy asked us to come in or close the door, so most people left.
Eventually, I got bored, and since I didn't want to feel dead the next day, I decided to get some sleep. After about two hours, I woke up, and was glad that I had packed all my stuff the night before. A friend and I went to get food, and decided to go for the hotel breakfast buffet for 10 dollars. It was a bit steep, but I figured that I probably wouldn't be eating anything after that for the next 36 hours, I might as well eat something good. Plus, it was all you can eat.
After breakfast, I did more con things, checking out panels, talking to people I had met, taking care of some last minute arrangements. Even though we had late checkout, I brought my stuff down early. Soon, friends started to leave, and we got together for a last group picture. The bed in the lobby was quite nice for that. Well, people were slowing leaving, and soon it was just me and a small group of friends. We went to closing ceremonies. I had to leave after only about half an hour, though to catch my train to downtown Chicago. So I quietly said my goodbyes and went to the lobby. I was luck enough to catch some friends there who were just coming back from droping off people at the airport (I think). So I had a last chance to say "farewell" before I had to leave for good.
The hotel shuttle took me to the train station, where I caught a train into downtown along with some other con attendees. I fell asleep on that train several times. Once at the main station, though, I had a hell of a time finding the Greyhound bus terminal, so I ended up taking a taxi the short distance for a few bucks. As soon as I got on my bus to Cleaveland, I was fast asleep, and aside from the long layover in Cleaveland, I slept almost all the way back to Maryland. On the way back the largest delay was a huge accident involving a tipped trailer which spilled it's load all over the highway. Good thing it was on the opposite side of the road. But we were delayed because one of our lanes was closed where part of the concrete divider had been broken. But I got home with no real problems.
Since I had slept almost 14 hours on the bus, I had no need to sleep any more, and went out with my friends and told them about the convention. This was the perfect way to start off my summer vacation.
Now just a few general comments and thoughts on the con.
As I've already stated, as much as I enjoy seeing familiar faces, it was great to get away from the east coast and see new people. It really gave me a chance to meet a lot of new people. Anime Central 2k reflected the current trend in conventions: Lots of underage people, lots of females. I think this is why the costumers really exploded on Friday afternoon, when a lot of highschoolers got out and made it to the con. (Of course, the very devoted and those with less parental contraint just skipped.) And with the big Utena theme (three of the guets had worked on Utena) a lot of females attended, too. This is a nice chance for somebody like me; I remember days when at cons there was perhaps one female to eve ry five or six guys, and I was one of the youngest attendees aside from the parents who took their kids with them.
The staff I have mixed feelings about. I'll start with the positive stuff, since I think it is more important and by far outweights the negative aspeccts. The staff did their job very well. Security in the dealer's room made sure nothing fishy went on. Panels and showing were on time. They were (usally) informitive and helpful, and curtious. The hotel staff was also very helpful and did a good job of cleaning up any problems and messes and occured.
What impressed me the most was how well the staff delt with a certain jerk fanboy who was harassing cosplay girls. As soon as the staff was aware of this problem, it seemed EVERY SINGLE available staffer got up and looked for this guy. (Reportedly he didn't even have a badge or anything.) He was never found, but as far as I know, they did such a good job of looking for him that the girl he was annoying didn't worry about him anymore.
Now for some of the things that annoyed me about the staff. First of all, I have to say that none of this is really directed at any paricular staffer, just the staff in general. And I also have to say that some of the staff I knew was very nice and wonderful. Anyways, like I've said, the biggest problem I had at ACen was the fact that Staff was allowed to carry steel, but normal attendees weren't. I've already explained this above, so I won't bore you by going through it again.
Ironically, two of the con shirts had the motto: "Gotta wash them all!" refering to fanboys. Well, some of the staff had these shirts on, and boy, did they need to take a shower or something! I doubt we'll ever manage to escape the smelly fanboy, but this just really struck me as ironic. If nothing else, at least change to a shirt that doesn't make you look like a fool!
One thing I liked alot about one staffer, the cosplay MC, was that he went around and thanked everybody for being in he cosplay and making it a good time. I felt that I should thank him for being a great MC, since I've had MCs in the past that just plain SUCKED!
Now, onto one thing that was may be for some the highlight of the con, and what I think about it. As you might have guessed, this is about the "table dancing" at the cosplay reception Saturday night. This is what happened:
Trinity and DigiCarat (who were staffers) first layed down on one of the tables in the tent, Digi on top of Trinity. First they were just looking at each other. Then they started kissing. Then they really started kissing deeply. Then Vash (from the Trigun Maxiumum manga, NOT my friend Phil who is known as Vash on the east coast cons.) gets in from hehind for a three-way, complete with pelvic thrusting. Anybody who had a camera was taking picures.
What do I think about this? I wouldn't be caught dead doing that, but I did find it amusing. I figure since there was no harm done, and it amused the hell out of almost everybody threre, there was nothing wrong with it. Later I found out that there were some litle kids there (like six or seven or so). Ok, so maybe they shouldn't see something like that; if they even did, i'm not sure. I'm not here to make any moral judgements, though. What happened happened; I was just a spectator. What I do have to say about this is that if anybody ever gives ORGY crap about the Animazement events on Sunday, they need to find out what happened at ACen before they start pointing fingers and making accusations. (For those who don't know about it, you're probably better off not knowing, but the short and long of what happened is that some people who weren't even affiliated with ORGY did some "objectionable" things with a large box in the lobby. It got to the point where people were almost ready to attack a friend of mine who wasn't even present at the time because her mother was part of the staff. For more information on this BS, check out my Animazement page.) Ok, that's the end of my little rant. Enjoy the pictures!
I know there are people I met at the convention who I didn't get a chance to give this information to, so feel free to contact me with any questions, or if you have any requests regarding my pics. Also, if anybody has a video of the cosplay, please contact me. I really want a copy.